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Trans student turns to social media for place to stay

A student opens a door to Piedmont Central during Georgia State's spring move-in day. Photo by Matt Siciliano-Salazar | The Signal

For Georgia State students, Dec. 17 officially marked the end of the fall 2019 semester. It symbolizes for many the beginning of a much-needed break from a stressful, but hopefully productive four months. 

However, stress doesn’t dissolve for all students. Some have nowhere to go once the semester ends.

This was the harsh reality for Noctis Jean Pierre, a 19-year-old freshman, who took to social media for help. Pierre is a Georgia resident and a member of the Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity, one of Georgia State’s largest LGBTQ+ organizations.

In an Instagram post shared by the student organization, Pierre said that he was unable to go home because of his homophobic and transphobic parents.

“I believe I contacted housing [around] probably November about possibly staying in the Lofts during winter break because I didn’t have a place to stay before,” Pierre said.” I did let them know that I had a job. I am still currently employed. I would be able to take care of myself in any compatible fashion.”

This fall semester, housing gave students until Dec. 18 to move out of the dorms. Students are required to move out of the dorms, except for those in the University Lofts, during the holidays. But some, and only some, students are allowed to stay via a “late-stay request.”

“Late-stay requests are for the end of the semester are for graduating seniors and commencement volunteers,” Shannon Corey, interim and associate director of Resident Life, said. “Our student staff also remains late as a result of their job responsibilities in closing the buildings.” 

Athletes who remain late for tournaments and other athletic events make their preparations through Athletics.

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According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the cost of college room and board has increased 50% over the past 20 years.

Students pay anywhere between $6,004 to $12,038 for both fall and spring semesters, according to Georgia State’s housing page. Students, regardless of how much money they pay to stay on campus, are asked to vacate every winter.

Pierre spoke to Fallon Proctor, coordinator of student assistance in the Dean of Students’ office. 

In an email received from Proctor, he told Pierre: “I heard back from University Housing and they indicate that you are currently placed in gender-inclusive housing and that they do not have gender-inclusive housing at the Lofts at this time, thus you would have to opt-out and permanently move to the University lofts, which would incur a cost increase of $100 – $350 for the fall semester.”

But Pierre said he didn’t have the funds for the increase.

“I just checked my financial aid a couple of days ago and I was only going to get a $180 refund so that would not be covered by my financial aid,” Pierre said. “I eventually brought this to the Dean, which is what I wanted to do.” 

He noted he also would have had to cancel his meal plan to live in the Lofts, which requires a cancellation fee of over $2000, according to Georgia State’s dining page.

Students who are unable to pay the fee like Pierre are left with no choice but to move out, even if they have nowhere else to go.

In an email between Corey and Fallon, Corey offered to meet with Pierre after the break to see what they could do for him. However, Pierre declined because he’d be back in Piedmont North with no need for further assistance at that point.

The housing move-out policy for the holidays was the first thing on the current residents’ housing page at the end of the fall semester. It clarifies that all residents, except for those in University Lofts, must move out for the break.

Student Myah Anglin lived in the Lofts during the fall 2018 semester.

“I stayed at the Lofts and that’s where the exchanges stay as well. So, we weren’t told we had to leave,” Anglin said.

Students coming from overseas are accounted for over the break because Georgia State puts them in the University Lofts which remain open over the break.

Georgia State’s official move-out page informs the other students that their dorms will not be accessible over the break. Residents are allowed to leave their belongings in the dorm. However, they aren’t allowed to stay in the dorm themselves.

Through social media, Pierre was able to find temporary housing with two individuals residing in an apartment at the Muse’s Lofts. They allowed him to stay with them, no charge, until Dec. 30.

“One of the roommates’ parents found out that I was staying [with them]. Since [they] didn’t tell them that I was staying there, they got very upset and asked me to leave,” Pierre said. “I am currently living in an extended-stay motel. My roommate did help me monetarily with paying everything, so I really am grateful for that. But I pay for most of my stay.”

The Georgia State Housing Agreement informs students that they must make their own housing arrangements during any academic breaks.

“All Residents must make alternative arrangements at their sole expense for housing during periods of closure of the Residence Facility,” the policy states. “If Provider elects to allow Residents to remain in the Residence Facility during any academic break, Resident will be responsible for payment of all fees charged by Provider during that period.”

Students who don’t have a place to go to over the break like Pierre are often forced to stay with friends or find people willing to house them for the four weeks the dorms are closed.

“I’m not saying to keep all the dorms open over break but at least provide some solution that doesn’t involve even more money being required to pay to have a place to live,” Pierre said.

Corey said that the reasons for closing the dorms vary but it “helps control costs and keep housing charges reasonable for students, allows work to be done if needed (cleaning or construction) and conserves energy and resources.”

“It is common practice for university residence halls to close over winter break and for students to move out,” she said. “Georgia State was closed until Jan. 6, and we have limited staff and resources during the university’s closure.”

College homelessness isn’t entirely uncommon in the U.S. According to CNBC, in 2018 researchers found that 36% of all college students were deemed to be housing insecure. 

Between 2017 and 2018, 9% of four-year college students described experiencing complete homelessness.

This is an ongoing struggle for Georgia State students and college students everywhere. Occasionally, students get lucky and find individuals kind enough to offer temporary housing. However, that is not always the case. 

“I definitely do think there needs to be a change with how they do it. I found out that Kennesaw State University offers winter housing. So, if Kennesaw can offer that, why can’t we?” Pierre said. 

Pierre said he thinks there definitely needs to be change at Georgia State.

“Because without being able to find a temporary place then I would have basically been on the streets until I was able to move back into the dorms,” he said. “There might be more kids in my situation that are on the streets right now, or couch-hopping, and that’s just unacceptable.”